Tomorrow is Ascension. We’ll celebrate it together on Sunday, but that doesn’t keep us from doing something to celebrate it tomorrow…
It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. If you are looking for something to do with your kids (or even if you are childless!), you might fly a kite. It’s been appropriately windy lately. And kite-flying provides the requisite “looking up” to honor the occasion (check the Bible’s account of the Ascension or you’ll hear more about that on Sunday!).
Or get up really early and take a walk to listen to the birds (there is precedent for this — keep reading…).
As we humans have retreated to our homes, the world, surprisingly quickly, is responding to our lighter touch: the birds… and foxes, groundhogs, bears and deer (those are what I have seen chronicled online) — the animals are showing up to enjoy the space we have begun to leave for them.
Before I even get out of bed in the morning, I am aware of the racket the birds are making, a veritable concert every morning.
In the Middle Ages in Sweden, people performed dramas and played games to re-enact the Ascension. If you have the energy and imagination (I mean, most of us have extra time on our hands these days…), get to it. Put on a play. Create a game. Please photograph your performance or your playing (or even just your kite-flying!). I will figure out how to share your celebration with the wider church.
The current Swedish Ascension tradition is to get up really early, go for a walk in nature to listen for the birds singing. I want to recommend it to you!
For more religious Swedes (there are not too many these days?), there is a dawn service at church and a congregational picnic for breakfast where the congregation is listening for “the first birds of Spring” sing.
(Ok, Sweden is further north than all of the U.S. up until the northern border of Minnesota, so maybe that’s why they don’t hear birds until Ascension! And apparently, as we feel free to have our Easter Dawn Service at 9 am, they have their Ascension Dawn Service and Picnic at 7:30 am.)
Legend teaches that if the birds sound from east or west, it heralds good tidings, and if they come from the north or south it bodes ill. (If you are superstitious, I bet you could position yourself relative to where you’re going to hear the birds…)
In central and southern Sweden, it is also the tradition that the fish do not bite before Ascension Day, which resulted in the holiday also being called “forste metaredan,” or the “first angling day.” It’s the formal start of the Swedish fishing season! And again… your luck on the first day is an omen for the luck you’ll have during the whole season.
So, if you’re not into kite flying, or not a birder, you could also go fishing! Again, any pictures you send, I’ll figure out a way they will be shared with the church.
Oh, one more thing. We’re going to have an Ascension Dawn Service tomorrow.
Yes, we are adding a new service this year, when so much is different (much as we added the Tenebrae service to our Holy Week schedule this year).
I looked up dawn on May21, and it’s at 5:09 a.m. That’s a bit early. So we’re going to follow the Swedish lead and “transpose the feast” until 7:30 am.
Very simple; maybe 15 minutes or less. We’ll read the Scripture stories. I found a lovely Catholic Ascension prayer. And a John Donne poem I found about the Ascension. Maybe some silence, but I hope it’s filled in by the sound of the birds, our music for the morning.
Then we can go and have breakfast or go for a walk, and listen some more for the birds.
See you in faith, hope and love,
P.S. The pictures today come from the Rev. Emily Olsen. Folks might remember, she worshiped with us for a year awhile back after she graduated from Bryn Mawr and before she left for Pacific Lutheran Seminary. She’s now the pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Gladwin, MI. She went out early this morning to see “the goodness of the lakes” around where she lives after some “dreadful flooding, evacuations, extensive damage.”